EU: Where Does Decision-Making Power Lie?

An EU Referendum Issue: Where Does Decision-Making Power Lie?


May Day, London

At the heart of the debate about whether Britain should remain in or leave the European Union is the issue of where decision-making power lies.

It is important that this question is framed not in terms of what benefits “Britain”, when what is glossed over is the fact that whether in the EU or in Britain, control over the human, material and natural resources lies not with the people but with the monopolies and the ruling elites whose mantra is to make these monopolies competitive in the global market.

But this does not mean that the issue of whether to remain or leave the EU is of no concern to the working class and people. Far from it. The European Union itself is part of the arrangements of those monopolies to compete in the global market while the people pay the price. Thus the EU is an enemy of the people’s striving to control the direction of the economy and assert their sovereignty over political and social affairs. The EU is one more obstacle to decision-making power being vested in the people, and it represents the concentration of power in the hands of the ruling elites who advance the cause of private interests and pay no heed to the rights of the people.

How the EU Operates 2 – Produced by the Campaign
against Euro-federalism (CAEF)

In fact, the EU, since its founding in the original guise of the European Steel and Coal Federation, has moved towards being a supranational or super-state, so that the Lisbon Treaty acts as the constitution of a Euro-federalist entity. This is unacceptable. Authority and sovereignty must lie with the European states, but is compromised through the EU, as well as the IMF and World Bank, not to mention NATO and other bodies. It misses the point to say that some directives or EU legislation are helpful to the workers, while others give powers to the the monopolies, and that therefore the EU needs to be reformed. The EU stands as a supranational body opposed to sovereign decision-making, and is based on and has developed a neo-liberal agenda which means that decision-making is in fact in the hands of the rich and powerful. The alternative that is sometimes posed by advocates of the EU is that of a “reactionary nationalism” or in the case of Britain a “little England” mentality, which would lead to conflict and war. But the actual alternative which serves the interests of the working class and people is the development of sovereign economies with decision-making in the hands of the working people themselves. In fact, it would be the existence of anti-war governments with authority in the hands of the people themselves that would guarantee peace and fraternal relations among peoples. The doctrine of limited sovereignty or of failed states which gives the big powers the “right” to intervene in the affairs of others is itself one of aggression, intervention and war. It matters not if this intervention is pursued under the ideals of the “right to protect” or with a humanitarian guise. The reality can be seen in the wrecking of nation-states and the proliferation of anarchy and violence.


The reactionary agenda of the promotion of “British values” is being pursued by the leading establishment figures who have been placed at the helm of both the Remain and Leave campaigns. It does not help the people sort out what is what for either side to prepare a list of these figures and accuse the other side of guilt by association. The issue is, how can the people exercise sovereignty? An answer is for the working class to affirm and establish itself as the leading class, with its own agenda for a way out of the neo-liberal crisis which affects the direction of society as a whole, and bring about democratic renewal so that the people become the sovereign power, the decision-makers. Being a member of the European Union, where its elected parliament does not even have legislative power, which is in the hands of the European Commission, it becomes impossible for the people to hold the decision-making bodies to account and exercise sovereignty themselves.

Only in this manner, it should be added, can the international rule of law be genuinely followed. This is because such a rule of international law needs the consent that all will abide by historically established standards, standards established that is to say by the blood shed by the people against fascism, against torture and in defence of the rights of all.


Such “free trade” agreements as TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) are a telling exposure of the aims of the monopolies to ride roughshod over the sovereignty of nations and peoples. They are “agreements” over which the people have no jurisdiction. The European Union promotes such “international trade” for the interests of the most powerful monopolies and as a geopolitical weapon. It is crucial that this whole neo-liberal agenda is opposed by the working class and people through working for their own human-centred arrangements which favour their rights and interests.

In short, a crucial question for consideration and discussion in the EU Referendum campaign is that of where decision-making power lies, and the necessity to work for it to be in the hands of working people themselves. A movement is required for democratic renewal in a very concrete sense, of which the necessity to withdraw from the EU is part and parcel.

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